woman sewing uganda

Meet Robina. She is our lead seamstress in the Mawanga co-op. Do you see her machine? Did you notice that it is HAND powered?! Well, it’s not anymore. After our training session in Mawanga, we went back to Kampala and immediately ordered four tables to be made to convert these ancient, heavy hand powered sewing machines to treadles. Foot power… It’s what’s making your pajamas!

Mawanga – the whole village – doesn’t have power. The lines stop seven kilometers from the edge of town. There’s no running water. There is one bumpy dirt road running through. One clinic, one school, one church, one health center. A lot of cows, a lot of kids, and a lot lot lot of smiles.

The other thing it has is ROWAN, the Rural Orphans and Widows AIDS Network, and Pastor Paul, tireless founder of the organization. Here in the US, co-founder Kelsey Hargadine works hard to promote awareness, raise funds, get sponsors, and connect with those who might want to participate financially or by going to Mawanga on a short-term trip. How did we hook up? Well, the power of social media: Instagram. And within two weeks, I was in Mawanga, setting up our second sewing co-op, watching “Teacher James” take women with very little sewing experience and very challenging equipment and turn them into competent pajama shorts makers. It was an amazing two days!

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Making the first pajama shorts
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Teacher James doing his thing

Our other co-op is in an area of Kampala called Namuwongo, with ladies there who live in the slums. Working with Ten Eighteen’s long-time partner Ray of Hope, we have four seamstresses and one jewelry maker who were thrilled with the opportunity to both make a regular salary and learn more skills through Teacher James. These ladies have been sewing for some time, and have treadle powered machines – the Ndoto Project hopes to take a couple of electric machines over in March, which can be used as long as the power is on, with the foot powered machines as back-up. These women whipped out forty (yes 40!) pairs of pajama pants in two weeks under James’ supervision, and are hard at work now to send a shipment on the 15th of November.

Two of my oldest friends, Mary and Agnes, are the lead seamstresses for the Namuwongo co-op. Ten Eighteen has sponsored several of their children, including two at university. Mary’s oldest son, Festo, is at Makerere University in Kampala studying law. Boniface, Agnes’ son, is graduating tomorrow, November 12, and is hoping to get his master’s degree. Not only are these ladies wonderful, their sons are wonderful young men, the future of Uganda.

sponsored kids university kampala
Boniface, left, (who looks just like his mother!), and Festo
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Mary, making a pair of men’s pjs
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Peace, our jewelry maker, and I, figuring out the Masai necklaces, make entirely from scraps.
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James working with the ladies on the first day

I’ll be bringing you stories and updates from time to time, more when I’m in-country due to the communication issues between Uganda and the US. We want you to know and love our ladies like we do, and know whose lives you are changing with your purchases. Thanks for shopping with us!

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